Our Plastic Ocean, by international award-winning photographer Mandy Barker, continues its UK tour to Gallery Oldham.
Addressing the current global crisis of marine plastic pollution, Barker collects debris from shorelines across the world and transforms them into powerful and captivating images. The exhibition is the first major touring retrospective of her work.
At first glance, Barker’s images are reminiscent of sea creatures and corals suspended in a dark void beneath the sea, but closer inspection reveals a more disturbing reality. From footballs to fishing nets, cotton-buds to coffee-cup lids, Barker highlights the incongruous plastic items now ubiquitous in our seas. Currently, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year and if these trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
From accompanying scientists on an expedition from Hawaii to Japan, tracing the debris of the 2011 Tsunami, to a voyage on board Greenpeace’s Beluga II to the Inner Hebrides, Mandy Barker has followed a trail of plastic pollution across the globe. The images resulting from these expeditions have become some of the most recognisable visual commentary on marine plastic pollution.
Our Plastic Ocean spans a decade of Barker’s work including the series Soup, meticulously detailed composite images of discarded plastic objects; Albatross revealing 276 pieces of plastic found inside the stomach of a 90 day old albatross chick; and Beyond Drifting, which sees Barker trace the footsteps of nineteenth century botanist John Vaughan Thompson who collected plankton specimens, the ocean’s most basic life-form.
The exhibition also features notebooks and journals documenting Barker’s voyages and research; a case of sand permeated with microplastics recovered from a Hawaiian beach; and an installation of suspended footballs, crowdsourced from around the world for her 2014 World Cup project Penalty.
Barker says, “For the past decade, I have researched and documented the impact of oceanic waste, combining art and science to raise awareness. I hope to inspire positive action in tackling this increasing environmental challenge which is of global concern”.
An Impressions Gallery Touring Exhibition curated by Angela Sheard.
Image: Bird’s Nest, from the series Soup © Mandy Barker.